An Audiobook Spotlight w/ Notes | “The House Called Hadlows” by Victoria Walker (Clayton), narrated by Kim Bretton

Posted Thursday, 8 October, 2020 by jorielov , , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Audiobook By: I started to listen to audiobooks in [2016] as a way to offset my readings of print books whilst noting there was a rumour about how audiobooks could help curb chronic migraines as you are switching up how your reading rather than allowing only one format to be your bookish choice. As I found colouring, knitting and playing solitaire agreeable companions to listening to audiobooks, I embarked on a new chapter of my reading life where I spend time outside of print editions of the stories I love reading and exchange them for audio versions.

Through hosting for Audiobookworm Promotions, I’ve expanded my knowledge of authors who are producing audio versions of their stories whilst finding podcasters who are sharing their bookish lives through pods. Meanwhile, I am also curating my own wanderings in audio via my local library who uses Overdrive for their digital audiobook catalogue wherein I can also request new digital audiobooks to become added to their OverDrive selections. Aside from OverDrive I also enjoy having Audible & Scribd memberships as my budget allows. It is a wonderful new journey and one I enjoy sharing – I have been able to expand the percentage of how many audios I listen to per year since 2018.

I received a complimentary audiobook copy of “The House Called Hadlows” via Audiobookworm Promotion who is working with Kim Bretton on this blog tour in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I was wickedly enchanted by my journey
into the Sebastian & Melissa series:

Walker plunges you into this world of mystery and magic with such an ease of alignment, you wonder why you’ve not yet traversed through her lens of enchantment sooner! From the nuanced details about the ways in which she built Sebastian’s world – to the foods his cook prepared for him to the more curious details how his life and world was now co-merging into another world’s dilemma. You found connection through the details but she also encouraged you to think further outside the box of what is unthinkable and plausible to imagine. She acts as the guide to give your imagination good folly to exercise its limits and I love her for it!

As I was listening to the story – I saw moments of familiarity within the story – of how it was being told and some of the entanglements of the magical bits of the world. I felt it had a brilliant cross matching of themes and events which could be pulled straight out of The Neverending Story and Jumanji and yet, I wasn’t sure if those stories were writ first or second to this one. Whichever way round, the beauty of course is recognising certain themes and story threads whilst finding a wonderful new world to entreat inside which plays by its own rules.

As Bretton describes the background of Sebastian’s world you can gather he’s living in a rather bustling community but it is how he absently walks through this towne and how he arrives where he is meant to be rather than where he was intending to be is what gave me the most smirks! As isn’t that just as real and humbling honest about our own lives? We sometimes make discoveries we aren’t meaning to make but still find all the same?! I love how he was walking without much direction and finding himself more in the way of others than enjoying the adventure of being outside. By the time he reaches the old furniture shop memories of visiting antiquarian book shoppes and early attic stores came back to mind! I loved those visitations in my childhood as they were great fodder for an emerging writer – as the objects and items for sale were futile ground for my imagination.

The descriptive details about Sebastian’s discovery of the mirror was pure joy! I loved how Walker leant into the scene to pull us closer to Sebastian’s widening eyes as he drew a more curious astonishment about what he was seeing – you can feel what Sebastian felt in that moment and it was awe-inspiring! Especially as the mirror itself was serving as a portal into a different world as much as Bastian’s book served him. The cat he encounters reminded me of the felicity of finding cats in places I had unexpected to find them and how their nature drew you towards them even if you had other things on your mind at the time.

As Sebastian starts to speak with Melissa, she helps him understand how her world and his can merge together – with one keen exception, she cannot cross into his world! When it came time for Sebastian to enter Melissa’s world I was so caught up in the moment with Sebastian, I, too, had forgotten to notice there had been a shifting of worlds – of where his and hers suddenly had merged together and he had taken such a keen step forward into the unknown! The cat (of course) plays a strong role in how he can make this transition as much as the magical object he hadn’t realised he was in possession over – yet, when it came time to visualise this transitional scene, Walker illuminated it with the childhood curiosity and wonderment you could sense and taste as an adult reader who still has the innocence of youth.

I liked how the story was ahead of its time showcasing the differences in boys and girls – and how girls should be seen on equal grounds with each other. Whilst at the same time, I liked how cheeky the fourth wall was broken in some places like when there is a point in the story where the focus is off of Sebastian and Melissa and the reader is acknowledged. I love how subtle this was done and how well those moments fit within the context of the story itself.

One of the best blessings though is her command of language and phrases – she has such a firm presence of wordsmithing this series into a wonderful display of descriptive narrative and sharp bursts of dialogue – the whole story simply feels alive on its own accord. You can almost feel the leaves which are part of Autumnus and you definitely feel like giving a big hug to each of the Seasonal Guardians Sebastian had met on his journey.

-quoted from my review of The Winter of Enchantment

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An Audiobook Spotlight w/ Notes | “The House Called Hadlows” by Victoria Walker (Clayton), narrated by Kim BrettonThe House Called Hadlows
Source: Audiobook via Audiobookworm Promotions

The sequel to The Winter of Enchantment and the return of Mantari the magic cat.

Sebastian and Melissa would never forget their arrival at the house called Hadlows. The long drive through the neglected park and woodland, the lake glimpsed through trees, the house, with its "thousand windows" looking down on them and the great hall, empty but for the portraits covering the walls. Hadlows held a secret, of that they were sure.

Genres: Children's Literature, Classical Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Middle Grade Fantasy, Portal Fantasy, Middle Grade

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781906123024

ASIN: B08D26C1X3

Published by Victoria Clayton Limited

on 22nd July, 2020

Format: Audiobook | Digital

Length: 5 hours and 34 minutes (unabridged)

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The Sebastian & Melissa series:

The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria WalkerThe House Called Hadlows by Victoria Walker

The Winter Enchantment (book one) | see also my review

The House Called Hadlows (book two)

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Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #AudioReads, #Audiobook and #AudiobookwormPromotions

as well as #KidsLit, #ClassicFantasy, #MGFantasy or #MiddleGrade and #Fantasy; #PortalFantasy

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a note from jorie:

I was quite excited to begin listening to the sequel for The Winter of Enchantment as I felt so consumed by the story and the world within it. However, for whichever reason I found listening to the sequel a bit of an adjustment for me as a reader as there wasn’t a lot of backstory and/or connective narrative to connect the two installments together like you would normally find in either a duology or a series of this nature. In fact, there was just a causal throwaway referene to whom Sebastian and Melissa were as we were re-settling into this world. I felt that did a bit of a disservice to the series but also, it made transitioning into this new story a bit harder for me as I had to suspend where I had been previously and try to get wrapped inside this story instead.

The hardest shift for me is what was revealled at the end of The Winter of Enchantment which parlays into The House Called Hadlows – wherein we find out who Sebastian and Melissa are in Sebastian’s world rather than in strictly Melissa’s. It was a clever ending and one I felt was writ well for the first installment of the series but as we shift forward into Hadlows, for whichever reason, part of me felt there needed to be either a Prologue or a few chapters of leading narrative to connect the two installments together a bit better than where we first begin this tale.

why i am spotlighting the house called hadlows:

I have to admit, when I first started listening to this sequel, I was quite anxious about what I would find inside as not every sequel suits me as a reader and for this one in particular, I felt it had high stakes attached to it as I dearly wanted to feel as transfused into this story as I had with the first!  Yet, despite my earnest attempts to re-settle into the sequel for this series, part of me keep feeling pulled outside this world and questioning too many different aspects of the plot, the characters back-histories and of course, how we came to find ourselves adventuring again with Sebastian and Melissa. Sadly, the magic of what gave me such wonderful joy to be listening to The Winter of Enchantment fell a bit short for me in the sequel and I couldn’t quite grasp what had first taken me out of this story except to say I was not engaging with the story as I had with the first installment.

As we begun this sequel, Sebastian and Melissa’s Aunt and Uncle welcomed them to their home the House called Hadlows except that not everything in this particular house is as it appears. Their reception at this auspicious estate was a lovingly curious one – as their Aunt and Uncle were fascinated with them as soon as they had arrived. Yet, as soon as they crossed the threshold into this home mysterious things started to occur which left you wondering about their origins and how how this Aunt and Uncle fit into Melissa’s own ancestral line. As it was through her family they were related and this is where the series takes a rather interesting turning – as previously, Sebastian and Melissa were not related to each other (biologically or by marriage) as they were unexpected friends who shared a Quest.

In this instance, they are step-siblings, who are off for a quarter of the year to spend time with a rather curious Aunt and her beguiling husband, their Uncle. The two are beyond quirky and yet, they have this warmth about them as well. Sebastian is the first to notice the uniqueness of their surroundings and from their observations and from the key references in the plot itself – about how this House of Hadlows is opening itself to the children, you gather there is something not quite kosher lurking in the shadows! Perhaps it is built-in intuition based on the previous novel or perhaps it is the chill I feel whenever they are going on walkabout in the house itself – something gives the strongest (and strange) impression Sebastian and Melissa are about to undertake another adventure into the surreal and fantastical!

A painting rather than a mirror became the portal of insight which brings to give us a clue about where this story is heading us to take us – as someone named Selina is at the heart of the mystery this time round. It was Melissa who discovered the clue whereas Sebastian is the one who found the mirror which led him to Melissa in the first installment of this series. It made sense it would be Melissa who would find something amiss this time round and despite the slightly difficult transition into this story (as I was confused by the absence of a foreshadow and/or a flashback to connect the sequences between The Winter of Enchantment and The House Called Hadlows) by this junction, I felt more connected to the evolution of the plot.

By the time Melissa took sight of Mantari, you could sense a stirring within this world to bring us back to centre and to have magic play a strong role in how Sebastian and Melissa would once again have to buckle down and tackle a Quest they had not yet foreseen as one that was meant to be undertaken by them but one which honoured their beliefs in the fantastical and the belief in redemption above all costs. Mantari was just a flickering of a reference this early-on in the story and you had to remain curious – why didn’t Mantari fully show himself to Melissa?

Listening to the story of Selina and how she became indebted to someone who wanted to repay her for a kindness she felt was to be freely given was another dearly clever lesson of life for younger readers. Especially how once you are entrusted with a secret how you choose to handle the secrecy of that secret and the trust which has become installed between you and the person who gave the secret is a telling truth about how one lives their lives. Selina also was the unexpected discoverer of an elemental elixar which was being related to Sebastian and Melissa through the cleverness of a being told a story about Selina’s life.

And, yet as much as it sounds as if I were hinged to the plot at this point in the audiobook, I was sadly losing traction and interest. By the arrival of Pan and his water nympths I had realised for whichever reason I could not regather myself into this world at this point in time. I am not sure if it was just the wrong time for me to hear the sequel or if there were too many loose ends between the previous installment and this one which led me out of the story rather than feeling as enthralled with it as I had the first time round. I was truly surprised by my reaction to the plot and to how this particular story just left me feeling more unsettled than enraptured by the magic of it.

It is a credit to Ms Bretton however, for each of the characters she brought to life during the passages I heard were more fantastical than the last ones I’ve heard her breathe to life because each time I hear her characterise another new fantastical creature or person, I find another layer of joy in how she narrates stories. It is truly a treat for the ears to hear how she embodies these characters, how she takes-on their personalities and how she can ‘age’ the characters by how she adjusts her voice to their character as well. On that score, I was most intrigued by how she captures such realistic impressions of characters who live outside our own world and of whom through her voice feel as if they could enter our dimension as quickly as one exits a mirror!

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Elements of the Fantastical:

→ Messages known through paintings

→ Extraordinary guides and guardians of different species

→ Magical transportation and teleportation

Why I earmarked this as both a delishly delightful Portal Fantasy and part of my #RIPXV readings this October:

There is a keenly ominous suspenseful undertone to this story – you cannot quite put your finger upon what is so dearly fuelling the suspense but it is there – lurking in the shadows and waiting to be called out. It is hauntingly frightful in some places but with the delicate hand of a master storyteller at the helm wherein the darkness is never fully extinguished from the Light. A blessing I am thankful to find as this could have become a far darker Dark Fantasy if Walker hadn’t had the vision she had for it. I think anyone who is seeking out atmospheric stories this October to become part of their selections for #RIPXV would find this a delightful addition!

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In regards to the audiobook, directly:

I am appreciative of Ms Jess providing a cursory outline of how best to articulate my listening hours on behalf of this audiobook and the others I shall be blogging about or reviewing in future. I’ve modified the suggestions to what I felt were pertinent to respond too on my own behalf as well as keeping to the questions I felt were relevant to share.

Number of Times I’ve heard the Narrator(s):

Kim Bretton has become one of my top favourite narrators in the four years since I first started listening to audiobooks (which I am in full gratitude to the Audiobookworm who has turnt me onto them with such fierce passion and encouraged my journey into the world of ‘audioreads’) from the years 2016-2020. It is a pleasure of joy whenever I get to listen to one of her audiobooks on a blog tour and she remains on my short-list of narrators I will personally continue to seek out even if I am not hosting a tour which features her audiobooks. In short, she’s a wicked brilliant narrator and one my favourite characters she portrays is Elf! (via the Wonky Inn series!)

Regards to Articulation & Performance of the story:

Whenever I listen to Ms Bretton narrate a story I am most fascinated by her approach to honing in on the characters and on the setting of the story. She has truly transformed how I look at Fantasy and how I listen to Fantasy in narration. Her art is the beauty of her narration style as she has this wicked fascinating ability to transform what you think you know about a character simply by how she fuses her performance into the dimensional girth of what a character can give a reader. I have found my curiosity heightened whenever I see the beauty of how she articulates the story and how she gives your imagination a wonderful playground in which to reside.

Performance of individual characters:

Sebastian: He is a bit more unsure of himself in the sequel and he isn’t quite as confident I felt as he had been previously. He came off a bit uneasy about undertaking a new adventure and seemed to yield his previous role as a leader in this world to Melissa.

Melissa: Her voice has remained full of innocent wonder and a bit of a courageous lilt towards embracing the unexpected. Melissa has the kind of confidence we all aspire to have even if we don’t fully feel confident in the moment we’re needing it most. She took a more assertative role in this sequel and seemed to outshine Sebastian a bit for me.

Fandigle He had a very old and cracking voice wherein the years of his age was masked by the traumas of his life as he was transformed through events which happened years ahead of Sebastian and Melissa crossing his path. He is the kind of storyteller you could listen to for quite a long while due to his voice and the ways in which he pierces a story together.

Secondary Characters:

Their Aunt Augusta and Uncle: You quite feel as if you are listening to an elder Aunt and Uncle speaking to the children Sebastian and Melissa! They were quite unexpectedly marvelous at the start of the story and I regret that Fandigle took over their role in the children’s lives before the Quest was undertaken as I would have loved more chapters dedicated to these quirky individuals who truly warmed your heart on arrival. They were uniquely described differently than your traditional guardians and Aunt/Uncle and that is what I loved about them. They were brilliantly ececentric in the best of ways, too.

Background characters:

Pan: was a very foreboding character and hearing his accent and personality shine through Ms Bretton’s narration was simply brilliant! Plus I loved hearing his role with the nymths and how he ruled over the water people. It was such an exciting part of the story because of how descriptive the scenes came to life and were readily enhanced by how Bretton pulled you through the vision the author had for this introduction to Pan from Melissa’s perspective.

Notes on the Quality of Sound & if this is spoken narrative or theatrical performance in narration:

When it comes to describing how this audiobook sounds as it is heard I am delighted to say, Ms Bretton has a singular style in which she can articulate a spoken narrative performance with a twist of the theatrical thrown in for good measure! Meaning, as she’s speaking the narrative itself almost as if the story has an intuitive storyteller and omnipresent voice within the background of the story as it shifts forward – she also has the instincts to perform the other bits wherein other narrators might not have performed as accurately as she has herself. I love how she gives all of herself to her characters (main or supporting cast) whilst tucking you into the corners of a story – not letting you miss any of those lushly descriptive details and alighting you so wholly refreshed for having visited this world of Sebastian’s it is a trick of your mind to think you’ve gone yourself because this experience becomes one of your own.

In essence, Bretton is an artist with a narrator’s heart and an actress’s soul!

She never has any issues with sound quality either – her voice is crisply heard and wonderfully produced to where each listening I have of one of her narrations is a treasure trove of story, cast and wonderment!

Preference after listening to re-Listen or pick up the book in Print?

As I previously disclosed I want to collect the print books for this series, I was thinking as I felt detached a bit from one book to another, perhaps if I read and listened to the books instead, I might find my way back into the series overall. I am unsure but sometimes I find a disconnection with an audiobook can be fixed whilst reading it in my hands and listening to the narrator in my ears as sometimes some stories are best read and heard together in tandem. This is a project for the future and one I look forward to undertaking.

In closing, would I seek out another Kim Bretton audiobook?

It is more of a question of how fast I can devour each of her performances as I have been re-listening to the Wonky Inn series this year at different intervals to get back inside the head of Elf and to bring new reviews to Jorie Loves A Story to share in the excitement I’ve had in following Elf’s journey past The Wonkiest Witch. However, I have also been blessed with other audiobooks she’s narrated and within the months of Autumn I can foresee I’ll be pleasantly consumed by her voice, her enticing way of transporting us into the stories she’s narrated and feeling uplifted for the hours I’ve spent hearing her performances. She’s already enriched my readerly life tenfold and I know she will continue to each time I listen to a different story and/or series she’s narrated.

Quite literally she’s one of my top favourite narrators and it is never a question of seeking out a new audiobook but rather, finishing the ones I currently have to listen to before I seek out another!

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 This blog tour is courtesy of Audiobookworm Promotions:

Audiobookworm Promotions Event Host badge provided by Audiobookworm Promotions

Be sure to follow the blog tour route to see what else awaits you!

Sebastian & Melissa series blog tour banner provided by Audiobookworm Promotions and is used with permission.Fun Stuff for Your Blog via

Listening to this audiobook counted towards some of my 2020 reading goals:

2020 Audiobook Challenge badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Whilst this marks my second entry for #RIPXV

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{SOURCES: Book Cover for “The Winter of Enchantment” and “The House Called Hadlows”, the biography and photos of Victoria Walker (Clayton) and the narrator, Kim Bretton as well as the blog tour banner, the audiobook promo banner and the host badge were provided by Audiobookworm Promotions and are used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Audiobook Review banner, 2020 Audiobook Challenge badge and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 8 October, 2020 by jorielov in Audiobook, Audiobookworm Promotions, Blog Tour Host, Children's Classics, Children's Literature, Classical Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Indie Author, Juvenile Fiction, Middle Grade Novel, Portal Fantasy, Self-Published Author

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